Hiller gets shutout, Ducks stun top-seeded Sharks

SAN JOSE, California (AP) — The San Jose Sharks worked for six
arduous months to earn home-ice advantage throughout the
playoffs. The eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks took it away in 60
minutes, thanks to the peerless puck-stopping of a goalie new to
the NHL postseason, but not to big-game pressure.

Jonas Hiller made 35 saves in a sparkling playoff debut, and
Ryan Getzlaf had a goal and an assist in the third period of the
Ducks’ 2-0 victory over the Sharks on Thursday night.

After two periods of the tight-checking hockey expected in this
meeting between California rivals, Ducks captain Scott
Niedermayer scored a power-play goal early in the third on a
pass from Getzlaf, who then roared out of the penalty box to
score his own goal with 2:25 to play.

With little panache and ample patience, the Ducks showed why
they were feared by every potential Western Conference opponent,
even after their unimpressive regular season. The 2007 champions
needed a late surge just to get into this Stanley Cup
tournament, finishing 26 points behind San Jose — but that big
number was erased by Hiller and his teammates.

“It’s sure easier to start with a win,” said Hiller, who took
the Ducks’ starting job from Conn Smythe Trophy winner
Jean-Sebastien Giguere this season. “Now, San Jose almost has to
win the next one, so that’s some pressure on them, but they’re a
great team.”

Hiller wasn’t intimidated by the deafening crowd at the Shark
Tank, claiming he’s heard similar volume during playoff games
with Davos in the Swiss A-League. He thought “the intensity,
it’s a little higher” in the NHL postseason, but “it’s not too

Backed by their Swiss goalie’s flawless play and excellent
penalty-killing, the playoff-tested Ducks put an early playoff
scare into the Sharks, who won the Presidents’ Trophy during the
regular season with 117 points. Game 2 is Sunday night at the
Shark Tank.

“There are things we did well, but the game really could have
gone either way,” Niedermayer said. “(Hiller) stepped up and
made a couple of saves, and they hit a couple of posts. They
came at us pretty good, but we still felt pretty good about how
we played.”

Evgeni Nabokov made 15 saves for San Jose in the opener of the
first postseason series between two California clubs in four
decades. San Jose won the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time
in franchise history, but the Sharks realize it counts for
nothing in the playoffs — and they looked like the
less-experienced club for most of the night at a largely somber
Shark Tank.

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“We felt like we (controlled) the majority of the play, but
that’s just hockey,” Joe Thornton said. “We’ve got to keep
people in front of the net, keep getting shots, and it’ll work
for us. … We’ve got a good veteran club here, and last year we
lost Game 1 against Calgary. We’ve got to think about this for 5
minutes, and then we’ll move on.”

Still, the loss puts the Sharks under postseason scrutiny yet
again after three straight second-round exits. Their 0-for-6
power play won’t stop another round of questions about their
mental toughness.

“We didn’t create too many second opportunities,” said Sharks
coach Todd McLellan, an assistant on Detroit’s Stanley Cup
winner last season. “That’s their goalie doing a great job
around their net, and us doing a poor job. Their goaltender
swallowed a lot of pucks. We obviously have to be better in that

San Jose showcased its superior skill while outshooting the
Ducks by a 2-to-1 margin, but the Sharks rarely threatened to
get any of those chances past Hiller. Coach Randy Carlyle stuck
with Hiller instead of going back to Giguere, the 2003 playoff
MVP, who watched the game from a folding chair behind the glass
opposite the Anaheim bench.

“Jonas is more than just a raw rookie,” Carlyle said. “He played
in some World Championships and the Swiss League, and won
championships. … He’s a very calm guy. He doesn’t get too high
or too low.”

Through the first 45 scoreless minutes, the Sharks resembled the
squad that coasted to the close of the regular season after
clinching the division title a month earlier. San Jose struggled
to string together consecutive clean passes, and had difficulty
keeping the puck in Anaheim’s zone, even during power plays.

Niedermayer, the Ducks’ other Conn Smythe winner, had the touch
to break open a scoreless game after the Ducks got a
man-advantage from a foolish tripping penalty by Jonathan
Cheechoo. Getzlaf, the playmaker who had four assists in
Anaheim’s most recent visit to San Jose, made a sharp pass to
the opposite faceoff circle for a one-timer by Niedermayer, who
slipped his low shot past Nabokov with 14:42 left.

Getzlaf committed an elbowing penalty with 4 minutes to play,
but Anaheim’s penalty-killers held on. Getzlaf then came
straight to mid-ice from the penalty box, accepted a pass from
Mike Brown after Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s turnover, and ripped a
shot past Nabokov.